Isn’t an order button enough to make it clear to customers that they have to pay? A judge in Amsterdam rules that it is not, in a dispute between Bol.com and a customer. The ruling is remarkable news for many web shops.
When is an order final?
A customer of Bol.com does not have to pay his outstanding bill of 200 euros, after the intervention of a district court judge in Amsterdam. The webstore took the consumer to court because he refused to pay the order, but the outcome turned out differently than expected.
When the consumer clicked on ‘complete order’, it was not clear that an order had already been placed and the customer now had to pay, argued the payment refuser. Although the customer did not pay in the subsequent screen and no items were delivered, Bol.com, on the other hand, felt that there was already a sales agreement – and therefore an outstanding debt.
Normally, Bol.com is right in a legal sense: as soon as someone clicks on order, a binding contract is established. From that moment on, both the buyer and the retailer are obliged to fulfil that contract: the consumer to pay, the retailer to deliver. However, the Amsterdam court now points out an important exception.
Order and pay, not “finish”
The court has declared the purchase agreement null and void, reports the AD. According to the court, the order button did not meet the legal requirements: it was indeed not clear enough that the button with “finish order” meant that consumers actually enter into a payment obligation.
Although Bol.com does not share this opinion – “in our view it is sufficiently clear (…), also given that this works well for almost all of our 13 million customers” – the webstore has now changed the message on its order button to “order and pay”. Thus, hopefully, no more confusion is possible.
“Legible and unambiguous”
The Amsterdam court apparently based itself on an earlier ruling of the European Court. In April, the Court had to rule on the German case of a customer who refused to pay Booking.com after an “unintentional” hotel booking. There too, the European Court said that the order button was not explicit enough: the payment obligation must be indicated “legibly and unambiguously”.
The rulings may set an important precedent and serve as a warning for other online shops. They had better make sure their order button is crystal clear, otherwise consumers might not pay their bill. For consumers as well, the case is a wise lesson not to click on the order button without thinking twice, because otherwise they are in principal obligated to buy.